How does life aboard Yahtzee work for us?
How does life aboard Yahtzee work for us?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, and after cruising into the Columbia River, meeting new people along the way and then sharing our lifestyle with our non-sailing friends in Portland, it’s time to finally tackle some frequently asked questions. So here goes…

Where do you do your laundry? 

The quick answer is, wherever it’s convenient. Many marinas or yacht clubs have laundry facilities that we use when we stop to get provisions and take showers. And if those aren’t available, we’ll take it to a regular old laundry mat. With two boys aboard, we try to get it done once a week, but that can be tricky.

Also, we’re often invited to bring laundry with us to friend’s houses — because nothing says “I’m a cruiser” like taking your laundry to a dinner party!

How do you shop for groceries?

This one goes with the laundry question in that we do it when we stop in port. Jill’s very good at provision planning, which allows us to go 5 to 10 days without needing a grocery store. But it really depends. Some places we cruise to have more convenient grocery stops than others. For instance, while cruising in Desolation Sound for 3.5 weeks provisioning options are limited, so we went to the store less and had to plan accordingly. But if we’re near places like Ganges, Friday Harbor, Port Townsend or Anacortes, then it’s much easier.

As far as how we physically get there, Jill and the boys typically walk with the stroller while I work. We’ll also take public transportation, and just last week Jill and the boys got a ride back to Yahtzee from a fireman on a gator.

Porter loved getting a lift from the fireman
Porter loved getting a lift from the fireman

How do you get around?

We get this one a lot because we don’t own a car, and the simple truth is that we walk … a lot. But it really depends on where we are and what we’re doing because our kayak and dinghy are like cars to us while we’re anchored out. And the stroller does a lot of the heavy lifting when we’re on land.

Our cars: the kayak, aka Spirit Bear, and the dinghy, aka Hornpipe.
Our cars: the kayak, aka Spirit Bear, and the dinghy, aka Hornpipe, carrying the stroller.

Other than walking, we use any combination of public transportation such as trains, buses, Ubers and have been known to hitch a ride here and there — which is common practice in many island communities that we visit. Occasionally we’ll also borrow a friend’s car or rent one, but rarely.

Porter loved riding the bus around Salt Spring
Porter loved riding the bus around Salt Spring Island

Do you have a shower aboard?

Technically we do have a shower aboard, but we don’t use it. It’s not an actual shower stall, so everything in our forward head would get soaked and the amount of condensation that all four of us showering regularly would create would be immense.

Our shower routine is tied to the stops we make for provisions, laundry and fuel, so we’re typically showering at a marina or yacht club while the laundry is going. And in the summer we use a sun shower on deck.

How do you stay warm in the winter?

For starters, winters aren’t that bad while cruising in the Pacific Northwest. I can count on one hand how many times we’ve seen snow or ice on deck and don’t even have pictures to substantiate that claim, it’s so rare.

Our diesel fireplace is great at keeping the boat warm and dry
Our diesel fireplace is great at keeping the boat warm and dry

When we’re anchored out, we have a Sig Marine 180 diesel fireplace that keeps the boat really warm and dry. It’s awesome. We run it off and on throughout the day and in the past two winters of cruising full-time, we’ve only kept it running all night a few times. Our Mr.Buddy propane heater is great for quickly taking the chill out of the air while we get the fireplace going. And our oil lamp is perfect for times when we don’t quite need all the heat of the fireplace.

At the dock we run a small space heater and a dehumidifier. Together they do quite well to heat and dry the boat; the dehumidifier pulls out the cold moist air and then the space heater warms up the cabin.

How do you fund this?

I work from the boat as managing editor for Three Sheets Northwest and also do some freelance writing and editing on the side. So as long as I have a decent connection to internet for a portion of the week, I’m good. I use a combination of data from our cell phones and Wi-Fi to stay connected.

Where are you from or where do you live?

We get this one A LOT and though it isn’t a tough one for us to answer, it can be difficult for people to grasp. The easiest response is, “Wherever the boat is.” And if you ask Porter where he’s from he’ll tell you, “Yahtzee.”

Yahtzee’s homeport says Seattle, but our home is really wherever we happen to be at the moment.

Since we don’t have a permanent slip, storage unit or car tying us to any port, where we’re from really rotates with the seasons. Two winters ago we mostly cruised around the San Juan Islands because Magnus was born in Bellingham in December and we needed to stick close for appointments before and after his birth. Then we went north into British Columbia for the summer and back down to Puget Sound all the way south to Olympia in the fall before returning to the islands.

This past winter we mostly lived in BC around the Gulf Islands, but also spent a fair amount of time in the San Juans and a few weeks in Puget Sound. We’ve spent the past month working our way towards and into the Columbia River and when we return north in May, we’re planning to spend the majority of the summer cruising in BC.

So I guess the more appropriate question would be, “where are you cruising this (insert season here)?”

When are you going south?

This is a funny one to us because for many Pacific Northwest cruisers it’s automatically assumed that you’re “getting ready” to head south to Mexico and beyond. And while, yes, we’d like to do that someday, it won’t be soon. We lived in and experienced cruising in the tropics for many years and are in no hurry to return.

Wait, sailing to the Columbia River from the San Juan Islands is sailing south, right?
Wait, sailing to the Columbia River from the San Juan Islands is sailing south, right?

We love cruising the PNW, have only scratched the surface of what British Columbia has to offer and dream of cruising in Jill’s home state of Alaska for a few summers, so the tropics can wait.

What will you do for the boy’s schooling?

This is by far the most frequent query that we get, and it usually comes with a look of consternation from the questioner. Though other people seem to be very concerned about this — which we appreciate — Porter and Magnus are only 3 years old and 16 months, so we’ve got a few years to figure this out. Of course, that answer doesn’t sit well with folks who believe that hyper-planning every aspect of our children’s futures is an absolute necessity. So the party line is that we’ll do some combination of (gasp!) homeschooling and stopping to put them in school.

The boys are all good!
The boys are all good!

Jill takes the boys to aquariums, story hours, kids groups and playtimes whenever possible, and Porter has participated in an early learning program in BC. But as far as preschool goes, we feel like the outdoor education we’re giving him, coupled with working on letters, numbers, reading, art projects, etc, is working quite well. By no means are we discounting the value of formal schooling, we’re just taking it one step at a time to make sure we do what’s best for their educational needs as they mature.

Where do you get your mail?

This is a great question, and is one that we re-explain on a regular basis. We get our mail through Dockside Solutions in Seattle. Our friend Angela started this service out of Shilshole Bay Marina and has clients all over the world. Basically what happens is that Dockside gets our mail, scans it and puts it into a Dropbox folder. We can then select to have it held for us, opened and scanned, trashed or forwarded to an address of our choosing. I typically grab it when I come through Seattle for work or we have friends stop by and pick it up for us if we know we’ll be seeing them soon. Since starting with Dockside, though, we’ve realized that we don’t actually get that much mail.

Hope this helps, and if you have any quesitons for us, please leave them in the comments section below.